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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

TSOs Defeat Effort to Privatize Security at Sacramento Airport

by Emily Ryan, American Federation of Government Employees

Last year, the Sacramento Board of Supervisors authorized the Sacramento airport to apply for the Transportation Security Administration's controversial Screening Partnership Program, which would allow the airport to privatize its security and replace its skilled and trained Transportation Security Officers with a private, for-profit company. The privatization plan has the potential to open up air travellers to serious security risks, and would led to job losses and de-professionalization of airport screening.

But thanks to a swift response from the TSOs and their union, AFGE local 1230, the Sacramento Board of Supervisors reversed their position this week, voting 4-1 to not to proceed with the privatization plan.

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. recognized the four board members who did the right thing for America and Sacramento with their vote:

We are pleased that the board recognizes the value in a federal workforce at TSA and has revoked its previous approval for privatization. Airport security at Sacramento or any other federal airport is not broken. In fact, it has proven itself 100% successful. That means privatization is all about money. It is being pushed by private contractors seeking to make a profit from national security.

The airport privatization scheme was pushed by Sacramento County Airport System Director Hardy Acree, who is a member of two industry groups that are aggressively lobbying to put airport screening back in the hands of corporations. TSA has approved Sacramento’s privatization application and is in the process of developing a request for proposals to solicit bids from for-profit contractors. Once TSA has issued its request for proposals, an application cannot be withdrawn.

After AFGE learned of the council’s little-known vote, the union and our TSA Local 1230 immediately pushed back for a re-vote. Working closely with the Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, we reached out to every member of the Sacramento City Council and the Sacramento Board of Supervisors to discuss the danger of going back to the pre-9/11 world in which private security contractors were more concerned about profits -- and as a result 19 hijackers slipped through and killed more than 3,000 Americans.

We at AFGE shared with Sacramento TSOs what we knew, and asked them to call their County Board of Supervisors in their district to urge them to reconsider their vote to privatize airport security. We asked the general public to sign and send to the county board member in their district the Constituent Letter detailing how the community would be negatively affected by privatization. We also wrote an op-ed piece in the Sacramento Bee to detail our opposition.

At our urging, the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO passed the resolution opposing the privatization of the screening functions at TSA, effectively holding elected officials accountable for their vote. The support of the Central Labor Council and its affiliated unions was crucial in turning this vote around.

AFGE TSA Local 1230 President James Mudrock:

Our officers lived with the threat of this over their heads for an entire year and can now go back to doing what they do best—protecting American skies. We are very grateful for the work by AFGE’s national staff and the Sacramento County Labor Council, both of whom were instrumental in getting this vote turned around. We also would like to thank the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) for their continued support and speaking out on our behalf.

AFGE TSA Council 100 President Hydrick Thomas:

The dedicated federal screening workforce that works for TSA is a crucial part of defending our nation from a repeat of the horror of 9/11. Proponents of a private screening workforce are misinformed about costs and labor issues and should instead be working to empower federal screeners to do their jobs.

House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member Bennie Thompson issued the following statement after the board voted to withdraw the SPP application:

Today, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted to withdraw Sacramento International Airport’s application to replace its federal screener workforce with privatized contractors through TSA’s Screening Partnership Program. This decision was made after reviewing the Government Accountability Office’s recently released report that called into question the claims of superior performance by privatized screeners. I commend the board for making this fact-based decision and urge other airport operators considering a switch to a privatized contractor screener workforce to consider the findings of GAO’s report.

 

Posted on 01/11/2013Permalink

More posts by Emily Ryan

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